Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children

I sit on the end of the bed at the end of the night mentally exhausted from dealing with my child that has Oppositional Defiant Disorder. This would not be so bad if I did not have that child fussing at me because I did not buy him a $600 leather jacket or $50 robot that day. I am also being told of how I did not do enough of his homework with him or didn't listen to him as he interrupted my husband and I talking. I am not being told these things in a normal tone of voice. I am getting screamed at by a twelve year old. An angry twelve year old. I lay down with so many thoughts in my head. Most of them are ideas of how to get my son to be nicer to everyone in the house. How can he be so angry? He is not always that way but I will have to say that he is on most days. I think of the good days and try to figure out what we did and how we can recreate that every day so that life will be less dramatic in our home. I usually get up from bed with racing thoughts and either start reading or writing to relieve a lot of the stress associated with this dilemma that I have with him. Writing has become one of the best stress relievers for me as I deal with and attempt to conquer this ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Child.

The ODD child deliberately annoys others and is easily annoyed by others.
The ODD child deliberately annoys others and is easily annoyed by others. | Source

What are the Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children

ODD is a disorder where the child has patterns of temper tantrums, and angry disruptive behavior toward figures of authority that go beyond what is considered normal. All children have bad days and temper tantrums from time to time. The difference is that a child with ODD is like this most of the time if not all of the time. They are very persistent and are negative, defiant, disobedient, and hostile.

The most common Active behaviors of the ODD child are:

  • Easily annoyed themselves
  • Spiteful and vindictive

  • Aggressive toward siblings and peers

  • Does not have friends or has problems maintaining friendships

  • Loses temper often

  • Blames others for their mistakes

Passive aggressive behaviors are:

  • Refuses to do homework

  • Refuses to cooperate with teachers

  • Refuses to respond when addressed

  • Refuses to keep order in the house (ie. Bedroom is a disaster)

  • Refuses to be sensitive to others

  • Refuses to share – is very selfish

It is not uncommon for children in their terrible two's and during their teen years to be defiant toward authority every now and then. When a child exhibits at least 4 of these behaviors and they last longer than 6 months it is most likely ODD. The diagnosis is often alongside other disorders such as ADHD, bipolar, anxiety, and depression. In our case, my son is diagnosed with ADHD with symptoms of bipolar, autism spectrum disorder, OCD, and ODD. Yes, it is quite intimidating when you look at the diagnosis. He exhibits every single one of the ODD behaviors listed above too. I would say that of all he is diagnosed with, ODD is the one we all struggle with the most. He struggles with it as well. I can tell that most days he is not quite sure why he is in such a bad mood or why he is yelling at me. He just feels that way and is fed up with everything in general. He has very low self – esteem and really wants to do the right things. He just can't seem to get to that point consistently. He has some good days where we all get along so well. Once our hopes are up, they come crashing down as soon as we hear him yelling and screaming at his siblings or one of us.

Homework is a struggle every afternoon but gets done successfully most days with some positive assistance from me or our nanny who helps me with the children in the afternoon. It takes both of us to tag team him to get it done. His grades are average but is an uphill climb to get there. He could do so much better if he would just apply himself and do it. His SOL scores are all above average and he aces most tests at school. He just feels that homework is not necessary and refuses to do it.

This is a very serious disorder. Studies show that 2-16% of children have ODD. It is more common in boys than girls in younger children. It occurs equally in older boys and girls. It often goes undiagnosed and looked at as just a rebellious rotten kid. If diagnosed and understood it can be treated appropriately and provide some relief to the family that it affects.

What Causes Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children?

As with many similar disorders it is unknown what the clear cause is. Genetics and environmental factors come up again as the possible causes. There is a lot of emphasis placed on environment with stressful changes in the child's life such as, divorce, moving, exposure to violence, and lack of supervision being some of the factors that can lead a child into being ODD. Many children with this disorder have parents with or a family history of a mood disorder or personality disorder.

My son was diagnosed with ADHD – multiplex disorder when he was just 4 years old. This just means he is ADHD with symptoms of all these other things. Doctors tend to put them all under the umbrella of ADHD from what I have seen and treat them as such. His Oppositional Defiance has gotten worse as he has gotten older. I feel it is due to these life changes that are referenced. His father and I divorced when he was 4, just after his diagnosis. I left his father for another man which causes a great deal of anger not only for his father but for him as well. We moved to Stafford, Virginia from Richmond, Virginia 2 years ago and he is still upset about that. Moving took him farther away from his dad and the life he knew as normal. He is bullied at school on a routine basis because he is considered “weird” by his peers. This happens not only here in Stafford but also happened in Richmond. He was already ODD and these factors have added to his frustration and anger as he has gotten older. Not to say that his ODD would have gone away, but it is possible that we could have had it under control by this point if these life changes had not have happened.

Great Video on Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children

Dr. Russell Barkley on Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD in Children

Divorce can be a factor in a child's ODD becoming worse.
Divorce can be a factor in a child's ODD becoming worse. | Source

Divorce and Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children

When my son was 4 years old I decided to leave my husband and his father and file for divorce. His father suffered from severe depression, Multiple Sclerosis, and OCD. There was never anything positive in his life either. I had been with my husband for 13 years with the last 8 being an emotional roller coaster for both of us. He had been diagnosed with MS and his depression got worse than what it already was because of his diagnosis. He was actually doing very good with the disease and was in much better condition than most I had seen. Everyday was a pity party and I could not attend it anymore. Selfish maybe? Regardless, it had begun to affect me so bad that I became severely depressed and suffered from severe anxiety as well. We had gotten to the point in our relationship where we argued and fussed at each other every day. I felt it affected the kids more by me staying in a relationship that I was not happy in. I had met another man and developed an emotional relationship with him over the course of a few months. Shame on me I know. It happened. I decided to leave my husband at this point and move on with my life. I knew this was going to affect my children but thought I could work through it with them over the years and everyone would be fine. I don't regret what I did at all. I do think it affected my son more than I could imagine. His father was and still is very angry with me 8 years later. He verbalized his feelings to his children when it happened and still does. He allowed them to see him upset over me leaving. He also said nasty things to them about me and continues to do so when he gets the chance from what I understand. My son who already had a disorder that caused him to have problems functioning day to day did not need to see and hear all these things from his father. It has caused a lot of anger in him toward me and toward my new husband. This anger is settled deep within him and comes out day to day when I either don't pay enough attention to him or do not cater to his every need as he expects me to. Every once in awhile the actual cause of his anger comes out but most of the time it is a different flavor every day. I know what the root cause of the anger is and I have to start working with him to forgive and resolve that anger. Determining the true cause of the child's anger is very important. You have to determine where it is coming from and then work to resolve it within the child. I have not been successful in resolving his yet but know that I need his forgiveness to make that happen. This may require his father's forgiveness which I am not so sure will ever happen. My intent with this whole story was to just give an example of how things in life can affect an ODD child and create anger within them. That it also comes out in different forms from what the true cause is. The true cause of the anger has to be treated and resolved to help reduce the child's overall anger.

Bullying at school can cause a lot of anger in children with ODD.
Bullying at school can cause a lot of anger in children with ODD. | Source

Bullying At School and Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children

Another factor that has causes him anger is the bullying at school. Studies report 21% of middle school children and 22% of elementary school children have been bullied. Most of the time we as parents are unaware of the bullying because our child is too embarrassed to tell us what is going on. They keep it inside and become angry about it. Other symptoms that bullying can cause are:

  • Social isolation

  • Loneliness

  • Anxiety

  • Hyper activeness

  • Social phobia

  • Depression

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Fear of going to school

  • Low self esteem

These children develop intense anger and can be violently impulsive for revenge against those that bully them. I have worked closely with the schools he has attended to help minimize the bullying. We suggested things for him to do such as keeping a journal to express his feelings on paper instead of acting them out against the children who bully him. His journal shocked me as it was very intense and full of anger with language that I would be scared to use as an adult. I had no idea that he felt that strongly about all of it until I read his journal. He was at least putting these feelings on paper and not acting out at the other kids. This was our goal and it worked. Working with the school to get their assistance with the bullying is key to helping minimize it. Unfortunately, the school tends to hold the victim equally responsible for what happened. As the parent, if you can get your child to give specific names and details of each incidence so that you can give it to the school it helps much more than being general about being bullied. Suggest the children doing the bullying are enrolled in some type of program with the guidance counseling department to teach them about how bullying makes others feel. Bring all the children together and have them get to know each other over the course of a few weeks in hopes to create a new friendship. If children get to know one another on a more personal level they may not feel the need to bully each other. The anger from a child who is being bullied is typically misdirected to parents and siblings at home. When directed at those that are bullying them it can get very ugly. Identifying that it is happening, getting involved with the school to work out how it will be resolved, and working with your ODD child to properly express their anger are all important in dealing with this. My son now knows to either write his feelings down or talk to me about what is going on. I can tell when he has had a bad day at school and after some conversation can get out of him exactly what has happened. I am getting screamed at in the beginning but he usually calms down as I show him that I do feel compassion for him and want to help him.

Our Story of Moving Back to Normal

We moved to Stafford, Virginia from Richmond, Virginia 2 years ago. My son tried to be positive and happy about the move as the rest of us did but he has gradually gone down hill since we have been here. We moved for better jobs and now have to opportunity to move back because of flexible jobs. There is only a 65 mile difference between the two towns and my husband can work from either place with his current job. We still own the house in Richmond and have rented it out over the past two years. So we will be moving back to the same house, same neighbors, same school, and same faces at school. Most importantly for my son, we will be closer to his dad again. He has been very depressed and angry at me for moving us away from his dad because he does not get to see him as often as he did. When something does not go right around here for my son I hear about how horrible I am for moving him and how he wants to go live with his dad. He is angry because of the move and he takes it out on me and the rest of the family on a daily basis. Again, it comes out in different forms but I know what the causes are. He is excited about moving back and I remind him of that when he is having a bad day that is associated with this house or school. I explain to him that adults make decisions that we think are best at that time with the information we are given. We don't always know what is going to happen because of that decision. There is no crystal ball in life. We have to make the best of the situation until we can do something about it and that he should try to think the same way.

Conclusions on Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children

Parenting a child with this disorder can be difficult to manage for even the most patient of parents. You have to show unconditional love to your child and be consistent with reactions to their behavior. I have some work to do on this part but know I have to do it. There are no medications out there specifically for ODD. It has been found that many of the same medications used to treat ADHD are very effective in treating ODD. Also, counseling for parents in addition to the child can be beneficial to provide an outlet for your concerns and your own mental stability in raising a child with ODD.
Things I would suggest as you go through this are:

  • Learn to calm down

  • Make sure you take time for yourself and time alone with your spouse

  • Forgive – start every day anew. Let go of things your child has done in the past and start each day with a positive attitude.

  • Teach your child to forgive. This can be the key to controlling and resolving their anger.

  • Teach your child obedience, orderliness, respect, generosity, gentleness, patience, and humility

  • Give positive praise when it is due

  • Be a role model for the way you want your child to act

  • Avoid confrontation or pick your battles

  • Be consistent with discipline

In our case, I believe that identifying his source of anger, working to resolve it by learning forgiveness is important as we move forward. My main goal with my son is to try to teach him different ways of doing things and different ways of thinking about things to help him develop into a happy and healthy adult. Knowing all along that I too will have to learn different ways of dealing with all of this so that I too will be a happy healthy adult and parent.

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Comments 16 comments

justateacher profile image

justateacher 5 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

As a special education I have dealt with many students like your son. By reading what you have written, I know that you understand that no two children with ODD are exactly the same. I hope you also know that it is nothing that you did or didn't do that caused your son to be this way. Although a divorce will adversely affect children with ODD, this did cause his issues. It was something he was born with. Also, I have had my former students with ODD come back to visit me and they were doing very well. As you said, children with ODD need to be taught the parameters you wish them to live within (rules, manners, etc.) and follow through with your expectations. Good luck with him! He will grow into an awesome man!


klurbauer profile image

klurbauer 5 years ago from Brink of Insanity ;)

I have four kids too, two of whom have ADHD (both with additional diagnoses) and one of which also has ODD. I know what a struggle daily life can be sometimes and even though I know plenty about it, I found your article very interesting and encouraging. Sometimes it's just nice to know that there are others out there struggling with the same thing. Thanks for sharing so much to give everyone a real glimpse into life with an ODD child.


Nexusx2 profile image

Nexusx2 5 years ago

This is very good hub. I think everyone in America should read it. I have a 1 year old son and some times my wife and I argue. We try not to argue around him but some times we can't help it in our current situation. He is smart enough to tell us to stop.


angela p profile image

angela p 5 years ago from Richmond, Virginia Author

justateacher - thank you for your comment. I know the divorce didn't cause his condition but can't help but believe that it didn't help and has caused him to be very angry at me. I try everyday to be positive and teach him right from wrong. It is a struggle. Some days I want to give up. He is awesome and a very special child to me. He is my oldest of 4 and has a special place in my heart. Thanks again for the comment.


justateacher profile image

justateacher 5 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

Don't ever give up! He is worth it and so are you!


angela p profile image

angela p 5 years ago from Richmond, Virginia Author

klurbauer - You and I are very much alike. I also have (2) ADHD children. My son has the multiple diagnosis while my daughter is ADHD and doesnt seem to exhibit any other symptoms other than problems focusing. Yes there are others out there like us. Some days I feel like I am getting paid back for something I did wrong but take a deep breath and move on. Hang in there girl and just keep being positive. These children will grow up into great adults with our help. Thank you for the comment, it helps me to know that others are out there like me too.


angela p profile image

angela p 5 years ago from Richmond, Virginia Author

justateacher - I know you said that it was nothing I did to cause this condition. However, I feel guilty everday. Not sure why because I know I didn't cause it but the guilt is still there. Is that normal for me to feel that way? I think sometimes I try too hard to make him happy because of the guilt. I feel like I have to keep him on track with right and wrong and not get caught up on the being happy part. Because a lot of what I ask him to do or require him to do does not make him happy. But it is necessary for him to be successful. When the guilt kicks in I tend to give into him with things that I may not necessarily agree is best for him. Though it makes him happy.


angela p profile image

angela p 5 years ago from Richmond, Virginia Author

Nexusx2 - you have to be careful what is said in front of your son. Going through my divorce was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Not because of me but because of the kids involved. I feel like everything that was said in front of them was absorbed into their brain and even today - 8 years later - I get questions about why something was said. They don't forget. In my current marriage, I try to keep my mouth shut until the kids are either asleep or away. If they are in the house I try to be quiet so no one hears if there is a disagreement. Thank you so much for the compliment on the hub. I appreciate it.


Warren Baldwin profile image

Warren Baldwin 5 years ago from Kansas

I've read about ODD but never from the pen of a parent of a child with ODD. Very interesting and insightful. WB


angela p profile image

angela p 5 years ago from Richmond, Virginia Author

Warren - thanks for commenting. Writing about it helps me to deal with it.


Samoa6 5 years ago

I really enjoyed reading this article, and appreciate all that you go through on a daily basis to try and create a happy and healthy environment for your son. I was wondering, after reading, if there was a specific activity your son enjoys or is particularly good at - something he receives positive feedback from on a regular basis? A sport or a musical instrument, or possibly even helping out with your younger kids? Is there one sibling he really bonds with? Alternatively, does he have a big brother in the community, someone he can talk to about the things he may be hesitant to voice to you - someone to look up to who is kind of 'cool' and can give him advice during these terribly awkward formative years? Also, does he have responsibilities around the house that he can be proud of, such as taking care of a pet? It makes me very sad to hear of a child going through this, particularly the bullying, but I know there is so much room for him to grow still, and many different directions to grow in. It sounds like you are on the ball with grasping where he is, so I am just curious what types of things you've tried, and whether or not they've worked.


Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland

I bet this was really difficult to write and express...my doctor asked me if I thought my daughter may possibly have ODD - turns out she was a normal 2 year old with a speech disorder. It was easier to say no than to try and converse or answer questions. BUT when he asked I researched ODD to see if she did indeed have the problem. She did not but I feel so much love for you and your son for working through this. You are an excellent mother and a great writer. Thank you for putting this information out there for other parents who may need it and find it a blessing.


angela p profile image

angela p 5 years ago from Richmond, Virginia Author

Samoa6- Thank you for commenting. Nick is involved in many things to help keep his mind busy. He is in school band playing the trumpet this year and has an electric guitar that he is teaching himself to play. He loves military things and is constantly researching and reading about wars and famous people. He has passed most of the online FAA courses to get his pilots license and is bugging me to proceed with the actual flying part. He is very intelligent. He does spend a lot of time with the two toddlers but can turn on them if they decide to play with my 9 year old daughter instead of him. It is like a competition with them on who can get the little ones attention. Nick tends to obsess about different things and can worry me to death to buy him something that relates to what he is obsessing about. It is an everyday thing. Not cheap stuff either. He gets really angry at me when I don't comply. It is like it provides him a high to get these things and it only lasts a day then it's something else. He really needs a big brother in our community. I think that would help him tremendously so he could relate to someone. That is one of my next goals with him. We have a chore chart for him to complete chores daily and I give him an allowance at the end of the week. A lot of counseling, medication, and patience is what it has taken so far. Everyday is a challenge. I quit working to try to spend more time at home with him and the other children in hopes that it would help reduce some of the drama in our home.


angela p profile image

angela p 5 years ago from Richmond, Virginia Author

Thank you Ardie for the wonderful comment. I also ran home and researched ODD when he was diagnosed. Unfortunately he had every single symptom. At least what he has is called something and people are aware of it. I had never heard of it until he was diagnosed and it scared me that it was this rare thing. But its not. Love and patience with medication and counseling has gotten us through this so far. He is 12 and we have lived with it since he was 4. Quite an adventure that I learn something new on everyday. As for my writing. Thank you for the compliment. I am new at this and that means a lot to me to get that compliment from you. I am trying to write to help keep my mind busy and not go crazy with all the things that happen around home everyday. With 4 kids it is a little loopy. We should have a reality show in this house!! ha.. thanks again.


wordscribe43 profile image

wordscribe43 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

Angela, I'm glad you told your story, I really am. I'm certain it will help many families feel less alone. You don't hear lots of stories with parents dealing with ODD. Before I had kids and was working in my given profession, I saw kids with ODD. I saw the struggles, so although I haven't lived this, I have at least an inkling of the challenges. I can tell you're a great Mommy. Your kids are lucky to have someone who cares as much as you. I can only imagine you'd have to have the patience of a saint. Hang in there.


angela p profile image

angela p 4 years ago from Richmond, Virginia Author

wordscribe43 - thank you so much for this comment. I cannot stop crying right now because of all the nasty comments this person is making about me. As I mentioned in this article, I did not always make the right decisions, especially when it came to my marriage, but one thing I have done is taken care of my children the best I could. It hasn't been easy. It is a daily struggle but the rewards are great when good things happen with them. Thank you again!

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